Perfect Getaway in Marrakech
Perfect Getaway in Marrakech
I’ve been to Morocco for the first time a long time ago when I was 16. I stayed there for 2 weeks and I’ve visited Rabat, Fez, Meknes and Marrakech. It was my first trip to North Africa and I was amazed by this vibrant country, so different from everything I knew so far. I decided that one day I would be back.
Time went by and in 2018 I thought it was the right time to go back to Morocco to celebrate my birthday in July. Exploring Marrakech for a few days was the perfect plan.
First of all be aware that Marrakech in July can be extremely hot. But if you tolerate warm weather and don’t mind having temperatures around 35º degrees (or more) you will have a great time there – otherwise I advise to go there from April to June or September to October.
You can have completely different experiences in Marrakech depending on your objectives. You can stay in the city, explore its main architectural highlights, and get lost in the souks. You can relax at the most exquisite riads and experience the hammam baths. Or you can get adventurous outside of Marrakech and get to know a little bit more of this beautiful country.
As I only had a few days for this trip I decided to stay in Marrakech, explore this great city in a relaxing mood and have an authentic moroccan experience. I’ve heard a lot about the typical riads, traditional morocco houses built around a central courtyard that are often converted into hotels, so I also decided to do some riad-hoping and I could not be happier about my decision. Ultimately, I had a bucket list goal for my trip: to experience my first hot air balloon ride.
I will share with you my Top 10 Experiences to help you plan a 3 or 4 days getaway in Marrakech, as well as the day trips that you can consider from there. Even if I didn’t have enough time to go outside of the city (except for the balloon ride) I definitely want to go back as I have a new travel goal: going to the desert.
Jemaa el Fna (by day and by night)
This big square is the heart of the city and it should be visited by day and by night as it provides completely different experiences. During the day it’s a perfect meeting point and the entrance door to explore the souks. At night it is full with hundreds of locals and visitors and it has a special magic with lots of vendors and snake enchanters.
If you love shopping (and even if you don’t), you cannot go to Marrakech without visiting (and probably getting lost) in this old and typical market.
Here you can find almost everything and just walking around the narrow streets of the souks is an experience not to be missed.
Don’t forget to bargain (of course in a respectful way) as this is part of moroccan shopping culture.
Place des Epices
This was one of my favourite spots and I went there several times. This small square in the middle of the souks is the perfect place to buy your customised woven baskets or woollen hats and there are also great options of restaurants and terraces there.
You can also find vendors selling spices (this is why it’s called Place des Epices – Spices Square) and the entrance to the Carpet’s Souk (le Souk Principal de Tapis).
This is the biggest mosque of Marrakech and its minaret can be seen from every part of the city. Located near Jemaa el Fna Square and the Souk, the tower is a monumental piece of art of Moorish ornaments. Admire its beauty from the outside and walk around the gardens near the mosque.
Amazing palace from the 19th century with precious gardens, courtyards and the typical Arabic architecture that will make you take a picture in every corner. It was built intended to capture the essence of the Moroccan and Islamic styles.
This is a mausoleum complex from the 16th century with a beautiful architecture, dating to the time of the Saadian Dynasty. Located in the southern side of Marrakech, inside the Royal Kasbah district, this monument is also considered one of the major attractions of the city.
I’ve visited most of the places in the centre of Marrakech in a walking tour with a local guide that explained all about the city, its history and culture. I recommend to have a walking tour for two main reasons: it takes you to the most important landmarks of the city and you learn a lot; and you don’t get lost and maximise the time of your visit.
Jardins Majorelle is one of the main attractions in Marrakech and undoubtedly one of the most enchanting gardens in Morocco.
It was created in 1922 by the French painter Jacques Majorelle and later in 1980 it was purchased by Yves Saint Laurent, being a source of inspiration for many years to the famous fashion designer.
The stunning gardens combine Moorish and Art Deco influences. Take one afternoon to walk around and get lost in a labyrinth of different areas with cactus, bamboos, palm trees and beautiful coloured Moroccan houses.
Combine your visit to the gardens with Yves Saint-Laurent’s Museum that recently opened and it’s less than 2 minutes walking from the gardens. If the queue to buy tickets at Jardin Majorelle is too long, buy them at Yves Saint-Laurent’s museum’s ticket office.
Hot Air Balloon
Have you ever dreamt about flying over the desert in a hot air balloon? I’ve been dreaming about this for so long that I decided to take a chance, ignore my fears and try a balloon ride. I didn’t even know that Marrakech was also known for hot air balloons so it seemed the perfect match. It was an unforgettable experience.
First of all be ready to wake up early. I mean… really early. The driver picked me at the riad around 5am for a 45m drive outside of Marrakech. I finally arrived to the place where the staff was preparing the balloon and a group of around 20 people was waiting whilst having a coffee.
I have to confess that I was feeling a mix of fear and excitement but from the moment the balloon took off I forgot all my fears and I was immediately amazed by the beauty of the landscape from a birds eye view. There are no words to describe the splendour of the desert and the Atlas Mountains at the sunrise or the quietness and peacefulness of flying in a balloon. I always felt safe and the staff was very professional.
After a 1h balloon ride, we finally landed and some jeeps took us to a Berber tent where the group had a typical moroccan breakfast. At 10am I was already back to Marrakech after living a breathtaking and unforgettable experience.
Where to stay in Marrakech. That’s one of the first decisions you should make for your Marrakech getaway. There are plenty of options from big resorts to small hotels, from local accommodations to typical riads.
I decided to do some riad hopping as I wanted to have the genuine moroccan taste and I stayed in 3 different riads – Riad Yasmine, Riad 11 Zitoune and La Sultana. It was a great choice as each of them was absolutely beautiful and provided me a different but great experience. It was the first time that I’ve stayed in this type of accommodation and I loved the concept.
Marrakech is beautiful and one of the most interesting cities I’ve visited so far but it is crowded and bubbling. Entering a riad is like finding an oasis of peace in the middle of the city.
Day Trips from Marrakech
I wish I had more time to do some day trips from Marrakech, specially going to the desert.
Here you have some options to consider if you are staying longer.
Agafay Desert: If you want to experience the desert but you don’t have a lot of time in Morocco you can do a one day trip from Marrakech to Agafay Stone Desert, located just at 30 kilometres southwest of the city.
Ouzoud Waterfalls: Morocco’s highest waterfall, Ouzoud, is a stunning day trip. I remember I was there in my first trip to Morocco and it was definitely one of its highlights.
Ourika Valley: One day trip to visit the foothills of Atlas Mountains.
Palm Groove: Marrakech’s palmeral has more than 100.000 palm trees. You can stay in one of the resorts there or just visit it and take a camel ride in a beautiful landscape.
Essaouira: 2h30 drive from Marrakech it is worth to visit this beautiful coastal town with pretty houses in blue and white.
Desert: For me this is the ultimate Moroccan experience and I definitely wanna go back just for it. If you want to adventure yourself deep into the sand dunes’ at Sahara desert consider having at least 3 to 4 extra days just for this purpose. There are several international and local agencies planning trips to the desert and you can combine it with a Marrakech getaway. I know that some riads also help to organize those tours. I was recommended to have a 3 days trip including Ait Ben Haddou, UNESCO World Heritage village and famous for being the scenery of several films and Game of Thrones (being a Game of Thrones fan this seems pretty exciting). This trip ends in Merzouga, located at the foot of Sahara desert, where you sleep overnight in a desert camp tent.
For more travel inspiration in Morocco, check my blog post Chefchaouen and Tangier Getaway.